CoalWire 124, March 10, 2016

March 10, 2016

editor’s note

It had been anticipated that India’s coal boom would pick up where China’s left off but in the last week Coal India has been forced to temporarily shut mines because of a growing coal glut. Mine production grew while under-utilised coal plants remained under-utilised.

The coal tide continues to recede elsewhere, with the US state of Oregon setting a 2030 end date for coal power while a long-running campaign against a coal-to-gas plant in California has come to a successful conclusion. In the Czech Republic the Prime Minister has rejected pleas from New World Resources for subsidies to prop up the largest but loss-making hard coal mines in the country.

Subsidies though are what the Indonesian coal lobby is demanding as it seeks to make up for falling coal exports by locking in price guarantees for domestically used coal as the government pushes ahead with plans for a fleet of new power stations.

Bob Burton
CoalWire Editor

features

India’s growing coal glut stalls mines

Coal India – the largest coal miner in the country – has grudgingly acknowledged that a growing coal glut has forced it to shut some mines and cut production at others, write Bob Burton and Ashish Fernandes in EndCoal.

Tweet: #India’s growing #coal glut stalls mines @bobburtonoz @ashishfernandes bit.ly/1LdbHyl

The Japanese Government’s push for coal after Fukushima

Since the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster the Japanese government has increasingly embraced plans to expand new coal plants, writes Gavin Blair in Shimbun.
Tweet: Japanese government pushes for #coal after Fukushima bit.ly/1LQcMfu

The real war on coal is happening in China right now

While the era of rapid coal growth in China appears to be over, how the government manages the transition to a less coal-centred economy is still an open question, writes Brad Plumer in Vox.

Tweet: The real war on #coal is happening in #China right now bit.ly/21PNIMV @bradplumer pic.twitter.com/Nzg2Zo2LgD

campaigns

Oregon to end coal power by 2030

Oregon state legislature has passed legislation to end the use of coal-fired power by 2030 and to require the state’s two largest utilities to increase their share of clean energy to 50% by 2040.  The legislation was the product of negotiations between Portland General Electric, Pacific Power and representatives of consumer and environmental groups. Oregon currently relies on coal for about 30 per cent of its electricity and will become the first state to legislate a coal phase-out when Governor Kate Brown signs the act into law. (ABC News, Utility Dive)

California CCS plant proposal collapses

A seven-year-long campaign by residents, farmers and environmentalists has led to the collapse of the proposed Hydrogen Energy California’s coal-to-gas plant in southern California. The 405 megawatt (MW) plant, which was proposed to be fitted with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), was initially promoted in 2009 by a joint venture between Rio Tinto and BP. The project eventually attracted a US$408 million CCS demonstration grant from the US Department of Energy.  However, community opposition, legal challenges and changing economics of the project resulted in it grinding to a standstill. In early March SCS Energy, the latest sponsor of the project, finally withdrew the application for the plant. (Examiner.com, Kern Golden Empire.com)

top news

Pollution forces cuts on Taiwan power plant: High PM2.5 fine particle pollution levels have forced Taipower to cut generation at the 5500 MW Taichung Power Plant. In November 2015, in response to public protests, Taipower and the local government agreed the plant would cut generation when PM2.5 pollution hit 71 micrograms per cubic meter at most of the 11 monitoring stations in the city. Taiwan Healthy Air Action Alliance argues the plant should cut generation three days ahead of predicted peak pollution days and demands the utility switch to cleaner generation. The World Health Organization guideline for PM2.5 exposure is 25 micrograms per cubic meter over a 24-hour period. (Taipei Times, Taipei Times)


US court dismisses mercury law challenge: The US Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by 20 states seeking the suspension of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards rule regulating emissions reductions for mercury, arsenic and other power plant pollutants. The decision reflects the shift in the balance of the court after the death of Justice Scalia. Scalia was one of the majority of judges who in February voted 5-4 to delay the implementation of the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan until an appeals court ruled on a challenge to the plan. (New York Times, Sierra Club)

Colombian police attack protest against Cerrejon evictions: A riot control unit of Colombia’s police violently attacked a protest against the eviction of former residents of the village of Roche. The villagers have been relocated to make way for the expansion of the Cerrejon mine. The mine is jointly owned by BHP Billiton, Glencore and Anglo American. Barclays, which has been a major funder of the Cerrejon mine expansion, has been the focus of recent protests in England. (London Mining Network, Blue & Green Tomorrow)


China’s coal cuts mean greenhouse emissions likely peaked: China’s greenhouse gas emissions may have peaked in 2014 as a result of falling coal use, according to a new paper by Fergus Green and Nicholas Stern from the London School of Economics and Political Science. They believe that China’s commitment in Paris that its emissions would peak ‘around 2030’ “should be seen as a highly conservative upper limit from a government that prefers to under-promise and over-deliver.” If China’s emissions have already peaked, it will face increased pressure to adopt more ambitious targets. (Christian Science Monitor)

news

China: Executive of coal company Kailuan Group investigated for “serious violations of discipline.”


India: Goa Environment Minister warns Adani and JSW to cut Vasco port pollution or quit business.


Philippines: General Electric pitching for role in “a lot of [coal] projects in the Philippines.”

Philippines: Air pollution concerns led to closure of coal stockpile in San Fernando.


South Africa: President Zuma’s son bought shares in company three weeks before coal mine deal.


US: Coal exports fell by 23 per cent in 2015, the third year of decline.

companies + markets

Indonesia coal lobby pitches for price support: A report by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the Indonesian Coal Mining Association (APBI) argues commercial coal reserves could be depleted by 2033. APBI is citing the prospect of coal depletion to lobby the government to ensure higher prices for coal supplied to domestic power plants. APBI argues restoring coal company profitability would result in increasing exploration expenditure, delineating larger reserves. However, Greenpeace Southeast Asia and Friends of the Earth Indonesia (WALHI) warn the government’s plan to build 20,000 megawatts (MW) of new coal power stations would exacerbate the already high social and environmental costs of coal mining. (Reuters, Equal Times)


Czech Prime Minister rules out NWR bailout: Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has rejected a plea from New World Resources (NWR) for public subsidies to prop up loss-making mines. NWR, a UK-listed company which produced 8 million tonnes of coal in 2015, renewed its request for government investment after CERCL – which owned 50.5 per cent of the company – donated its shares back. NWR has warned three of its mines – employing up to 6000 of its 13,000 workforce – will have to close by 2018. However, Sobotka restated the government will only provide support for affected workers, not the company. (Reuters, Reuters)


Sri Lankan Deputy Minister says Chinese plant ‘sub-standard’: The Deputy Minister for Power and Renewable Energy, Ajith P. Perera, has described the 900 MW Norochcholai plant built by China Machinery and Engineering Corporation as “sub-standard.” While the plant has been subject to repeated breakdowns, Perera said the government was unable to claim damages as sub-standard materials had been specified in the construction contract. The government is pressing ahead with plans for the 900 MW Sampur plant proposed by the Indian-government’s NTPC, in part to compensate for the unreliability of the Norochcholai plant. (Daily News)

JPMorgan scales back coal support: JPMorgan Chase has unveiled a new policy which commits it to reducing support for coal projects, including an end to the financing of new greenfield coal mines and a ban on financing new coal-fired power plants in “high income OECD countries.” The policy states new plants in OECD countries fitted with Carbon Capture and Storage would be considered on a case-by-case basis. While the bank acknowledges the Paris Agreement’s aim to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees, the policy permits the funding of new coal plants in non-OECD countries as long as they are ultra-supercritical design.(Bloomberg, Rainforest Action Network)


Alberta’s coal plants lose customers: TransCanada Corporation has terminated power purchase agreements with a combined capacity of 1669 MW from the Sundance and Sheerness power plants in Alberta due to the increasing costs of carbon dioxide emissions. The agreements contain a provision allowing TransCanada to cancel them if a change in provincial law makes them unprofitable. In November 2015 the newly-elected provincial government signalled a carbon tax would be introduced and coal plants phased out. In December the utility Enmax terminated its contract to buy up to 663 MW from Atco Power’s 689 MW Battle River power plant. (Globe & Mail)


Coal drags German utilities down:E.ON, the largest power utility in Germany, has written down the value of its coal and gas power generation assets by US$9.7 billion as increasing renewable generation has cut wholesale electricity prices by two-thirds in the last five years. Earlier in the week RWE reported that its conventional power division had written down the value of its UK and Germany power assets – which includes six coal plants– by US$2.3 billion. (Financial Times, RWE)

resources

Energy Poverty, Then and Now: How Coal Proponents Have It Wrong, Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis, March 2016.

This 15-page briefing paper critiques the coal industry’s claims that coal power is essential to address energy poverty. The paper includes case studies of Africa, Kosovo, Puerto Rico and India.

Tweet: Energy poverty, then and now: how #coal proponents have it wrong bit.ly/1OUXeBL @ieefa_institute


“Australian coal v renewables: how much will it cost to bring electricity to India’s poor?”The Conversation, March 7, 2016. (This article is based on a paper in Renewable Energy journal.)

Three Australian academics found that the use of Australian coal in rural Bihar in India was only viable if the costs of pollution are ignored.

 

 

Update: Is China doubling down on its coal power bubble?, Greenpeace, March 2016.

This 24-page report details the 210 proposed coal plants approved by China in 2015 despite increased health impacts and rapidly expanding renewables and other power supplies.

Tweet: China’s coal bubble: 210 new coal-fired power plants were approved in 2015 bit.ly/21C5bZk pic.twitter.com/vxZ5xwUa6l